4 Reasons Students Don’t Adjust Well to an AP Class
Many students are now starting to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes in the 10th grade. It’s a lot to ask a 15-year-old to be able to handle college coursework but, with admissions requirements getting stricter by the year, many students decide this is the right path for them. However, most students don’t adjust well at this age. They’ve only just transitioned to high school the year before and are now essentially in college half of the day. Although students can be prosperous with diligent study and the help of a study group or tutor, there are several reasons why they may not be initially successful. It’s a good idea for students and their families to take a look at these reasons so they can make adjustments where necessary.
1. AP courses give homework on weekends and holidays
Most teachers who run an AP class will give out homework on weekends and holidays. Although students think this is simply to fill all their free time, the reality is that the teacher has a certain amount of material they have to get through. For the most part, this can only be done if students do an independent study on their free days. AP students should expect to do a lot of reading, annotations, and formula review during the weekend on a regular basis. In college, students might have long range due dates or several hours in between classes to work on assignments. They will also have developed better time management skills and study habits at this point in their education. A 10th grader taking AP courses will be expected to have these skills five years earlier (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Grades and AP Class”).
2. Assignments in AP courses are much more time consuming
In addition to reading and review, AP courses are more time consuming in general. Rather than read a short passage and answer 10 questions, students will generally read an entire text and answer 50 questions. In addition to regular course material teachers have to cover what will be on the actual AP exam in the spring. This means more time in class discussing the assignments (rather than doing them), which leaves students to their own devices to finish. Because high school students are used to short range due dates (generally between one day and one week) they are not used to self enforced time management. This is another major reason for maladjustment to an Advanced Placement class.
3. There are few second chances
High school students enrolled in typical courses will often get a second chance here and there. For instance, if they misunderstood a deadline they may be given a brief extension. Also, if the entire class performed poorly on an exam, the teacher may curve it or disregarded it altogether. On the other hand, AP courses held at the college level will have very few second chances. Students are expected to approach the teacher with any questions or concerns and, if they don’t, it’s assumed they know all of the procedures of the assignment and class in general. For someone in their middle teens, this is quite a responsibility (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Taking the AP Exam”).
4. Students will be expected to use their critical thinking skills to the max
In addition to being organized and proactive in an AP course, students will be expected to use their critical thinking skills on a regular basis. When looking at a particular assignment, students will be expected to understand the context, background information of any author or text, advanced formulas that can be applied to a math or science course, and problem solving with content as well as organization. Because a 15 or 16 year old’s mind is still growing, this may be extra difficult at this stage.
Although there are many ways first time AP students can fall by the wayside, they can still be successful if they have enough help. They can work with a parent or tutor to get heavily organized. They can also work with their teacher, a study group, or tutor to focus on the content. There are lots of resources available to AP students but they do have to go out and search for them.
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